Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fidgety Baby Growing Up

My daughter was a very fidgety baby. More fidgety than any other baby I knew through all my years of babysitting, being an aunt and having friends and family with babies. So fidgety that I wondered if something was wrong, if there was an underlying reason for her fidgetiness.

There really wasn’t anything wrong. As far as I can tell, she simply has a LOT of energy in her body. Her father is the same way. Londo is full of energy and has always been a fidgeter. And me? I can’t sit in one position for a long period of time. I don’t really fidget so much as I shift positions periodically, and I don’t think I ever simply sit normal, facing forward with both feet on the ground when I’m in a chair. In fact, sitting normal sounds like torture to me.

But three years ago, when the Pumpkin was a few months old and through her babyhood, I didn’t know why she was fidgeting so much. When I would nurse her, when we’d be rocking her to sleep, when we would try to hold her calmly, when we’d be lying in bed with her to get her to sleep, she would flail her arms and legs, move her hands and fingers relentlessly, twist and twirl my hair, move constantly, constantly. Sometimes the movements were more flailing than fidgeting. Sometimes it was little but intense movements like twisting her fingers in my hair.

I wondered why and if it was normal. I googled, but found no real information that helped me, and no one else wrote about their baby fidgeting at the time. I asked the doctor, and pretty much came to the conclusion that some babies just fidget. The way that some kids, teenagers, adults, people just fidget.

Yet over the years, I’ve wondered. I’ve wondered about other people with fidgety babies, because thanks to the many, many hits to my site from search engines on the internet, I know that there have been a lot of other people searching about fidgety babies, just as I once did. And I think of all those other people and their fidgety babies, and I wonder if those babies are/were like my girl in other ways. I wonder if those kids continued fidgeting through toddlerhood, like my girl did. Did those kids have so so SO much trouble calming their bodies down to go to sleep or even just sit still, like my girl did/does? I wonder if those kids were later on the curve for developing self-soothing skills. I wonder if those kids were earlier on the curve for developing motor skills, gross and fine. I wonder if those other kids are as energetic and highly active as my pre-schooler.

There are some comments on my posts about my fidgety baby in which people have said that perhaps my child didn’t fidget they way theirs did, that it didn’t sound as severe or as constant or, I don’t know, as MUCH as their did. I believe she probably did, although I haven't seen these other peoples kids so I can't compare for sure. I totally understand the sentiment, the questioning. Like it says the Raising Your Spirited Child book that I often mention: sure most kids are energetic or all 2 or 3 year olds are stubborn persistent, but spirited kids are just MORE. And that’s what it is like with the fidgeting.

My boy, who is now 14 months old, also fidgets some. An average amount. An expected amount, I would even say. I might have once thought, “Gee, this baby sure can be fidgety.” But I would have just been slightly irritated during the worst of the fidgets, and moved on in my thinking. After having a truly Fidgety Baby, I know that his fidgeting is nothing. All babies fidget. But some fidget more. And some babies fidget WAY MORE!

So I wonder about those other kids, those other fidgety babies. Did they learn to crawl early, walk early, climb early? At age 18 months, did their parents move them into a big kid bed to try and make the bedtimes and nights easier? As 1 year olds, did they spent hours in and out of their beds, walking circles around their parents, as their parents fell asleep in their beds, as they kept walking, walking, climbing, climbing? At age 2, did their physical skills match those a year older than them, except the skills needed to sit still for any length of time? As a 2 year old, did they simply stop napping and have trouble even resting at nap time? At age 3, did they need excuses to get out of their chairs at meal times because they simply could not sit still for the whole meal? Are those children also spirited or simply high-energy kids?

Because my fidgety baby did all those things. My little, fidgety girl has great physical skills, and more energy than I thought possible in a human! My girl keeps moving and figuring out how to do things with her body that many kids a year or even two years older than her cannot do. At 4 or 5 months, she was crawling. At 10 or 11 months, she was walking. At 1 year, she was throwing and catching balls relatively accurately. At 18 months, she was sleeping (when we’d finally get her to sleep) in a big girl bed and coming into our room by herself when she’d wake up in the middle of the night, turning the knobs to the doors with ease and climbing into our bed with no problems. At 2 years, she was running and dribbling a soccer ball while she ran. At 3 years, she is already hitting balls off the t-ball set.

I think that all that fidgety energy drives her to do things with her body. She needs to channel that energy and activeness, and it’s up to us as her parents to find ways for her to do that. It’s also up to us to help her learn to calm her body down and to listen, through all the impulses, to the signals that her body is giving her. It’s not easy, for her or us. But the skills we help her learn to handle all her energy and impulses and plain fidgetiness will be so important for her to channel that drive into accomplishments as an older kid, a teen and an adult.

I don’t know if my daughter is a typical example of a child who was a Fidgety Baby. I don’t have any clue how other Fidgety Babies have developed. I wish I did, because I love to learn about development patterns in general, and I love to hear about other kids who might be similar in certain ways to my girl. But what I do know is how my daughter as developed and how amazing she is in so many ways.

My daughter went from being a Fidgety Baby to being a Highly-Active Toddler to being a High-Energy Pre-Schooler. And from here, we’ll see what kind of school kid, pre-teen, teenager and adult she will be. I have a feeling it will continue to be really fun to watch her grow!


Melba said...

Caramama, my Annie is a Fidgety Baby. In fact your Fidgety Baby posts were some of the first I read on your blog, because my tiny little newborn baby just could. not. be. still. and I was not used to that after my non-fidgety Rosie.

She seems less fidgety now at almost-7 months than she was at 0-5 months. Her peak of fidgetiness was at about 3 months. She fidgeted so much she couldn't fall asleep and would frustrate herself. Sometimes it was like she couldn't fidget enough... almost panic-like grabbing at things, that didn't seem to satisfy whatever need it was that made her fidget. She never just laid or sat there without moving. She was, and is, constantly in motion. Now that I think about it actually, its not that her fidgetiness has subsided. Its that she has more control over her body and can move around and it seems to frustrate her less. But she is still in constant motion unless in deep sleep.

Some examples... When falling asleep, she prefers her side and will "sweep" the bed from her head to her legs with her top arm. It takes her a very long time to fall asleep because, well who could fall asleep with your arm in constant motion? When sitting in her high chair, she bats at the tray and rocks her body back and forth nonstop. When on the floor, she rolls around constantly, never just laying there playing with a toy, always moving. She does not cuddle. Ever. When I try to rock her to sleep, she fiddles with my hair or bats at my shoulder or face or whatever. Even with her eyes closed.

This is one of the reasons I weaned her from nursing to a bottle. Nursing was becoming annoying and painful (ok it was always painful) because she would. not. settle. in. On and off the breast, writhing around, fiddling with my bra, scratching me. I also had overactive letdown, so every time she popped off the breast (every 10-15 seconds for the whole feed) I would spray milk all over the room. Nursing in public was difficult and embarassing. My house had milk sprays everywhere. So at 5 months old, I'd had enough.

Annie's going to be crawling any day now. Just this morning she was bridging, rocking back and forth. At almost-7 months I don't think this is particularly early for crawling, not like the Pumpkin at 4-5 months. Annie is not a spirited baby like the Pumkpin though, and my guess is that maybe its the combination of physical fidgetiness + spirited demeanor that led to her very early physical capabilities.

I'll keep you informed on how she develops as she grows older! It is very interesting though, and when I read your posts when she was just a wee little thing, it affirmed my initial thoughts that there isn't anything wrong with her... she just fidgets!

Anonymous said...

Hi Caramama! My DS was a fidgety baby and now a very high energy toddler/preschooler. All of the descriptions of your daughter echo my experiences with my son.

When he was a newborn I thought he fidgeted during nursing because he was struggling to get milk (I had to use a nipple shield at first because he was tongue-tied). It traumatized me to think he was squirming because he might be struggling so. But we nursed for almost 3 years and I learned along the way that he just fidgets. All. The. Time.

I try not to call him a "spaz" out loud because I know that technically he is not. But I think it a LOT. They're just high energy and ready to go at a moment's notice. It will be interesting to see how this plays out once he's in school!

I'm glad to know I have company with this! Thanks!

hush said...

"Raising Your Spirited Child" = great book! It took us too long to come around to the idea that the spirited label in fact fits, but once we opened our minds and did the quizzes in the book we found that DS is spirited in many ways- though to your topic he was never extremely "fidgety" per se; just an early walker like every other baby in the family has been. His high energy becomes apparent in contact with other parents of boys who see DS jumping off the couch etc with glee and ask "is he always like this?" and the answer is "yes, except when he's sleeping." He's just high energy and happy, mostly- we can live with that. I try to play to his strengths like you're doing with your Pumpkin - sports, more physical activity, movement, and just accepting that he's a bit different, hopefully that's a good thing.

sheSaidC2 said...

My fidgety baby is now a very active preschooler too! He can't sit still even when watching tv...
no he jumps, and climbs on the couch, over the couch, off the couch, over his sister. He starts to slid up to the top of the couch and then jumps unto the cushions without even really being aware he is doing it. The way some people bounce or tap.

We have yet to fully figure out falling asleep without the help of nursing (which actually does allow him to calm his body) but we have added a session of get the wiggles out before we do our relax routine.

We talk about how he's got lots of energy in his body, let's get all of it out with wiggling... then we go through each body part and relax it. I am hoping we can use those skills we are practicing at night during other times when he needs to be still.

Charisse said...

Hm, well I would put Mouse in the fidgety baby category - always on, check, didn't nap, check, spirited, check - but she's not physically ahead on anything at all. Crawled 12 months, walked 16, still doesn't do monkey bars at 6 years 4 months (which may partly be just because she's really big for her age).

But crazy vocab yes, perfectionism, yes, still not gonna sleep if something interesting is going on, yes. Did a very walking-intensive preschool which was great for her...and handling elementary school fine (started 1st grade this week) BUT interestingly has developed ability to focus with her whole body, sometimes on really weird stuff like these crazy arrangements of things she makes in her room. It takes a lot of waving, hallooing, and so forth to break her concentration when she's doing it...and often, there's a foot or something fidgeting along there. It's very cute.

geeks in rome said...

Let my son join the club!

My sister told me that you can guess how active your child will be by how active s/he was in the womb. With my small empirical sample of 2 kids it's turned out to be true. My son was in constant motion in utero. Whereas I always feared my daughter would be stillborn because I could go 5 hours without having felt a thing.

Like your daughter, my son NEEDS to move. He skipped crawling and went straight to cruising at 5 months. Walking at 10 months etc..
Getting him to take his naps took 45mins to 1.5 hrs of crazy rocking. I had to put him in a crib at bedtime when he was able to pull himself up in bed. To get him to sleep was hell. Hours of rocking and he always had to hum or moan as part of the workout, I mean ritual.

He completely gave up napping at 2 but going to pre-school wore him out and at least it got easier to put him to bed at night. He grinds his teeth like mad at night which the dentist said is just him working off excess energy.

He cannot sit still and needs to walk in circles when he talks. He loves to run and bike and hike, but he hates sports! Otherwise I would have sent him to sports camp this summer or have him do afterschool sports to help him work it off.

But he's highly creative and intellectual despite the constant need to MOVE. So he prefers unstructured activity where he calls the shots and can be inventive. He doesn't have great hand-eye coordination (like me) but he does have my leg-skills so I guess we should do more to get him to bike and run, but city living and working full time makes scheduling that hard. urg.

The nice thing is that he's so sharp he is never bored. He's always thinking up something to do. But it wears me out just to watch. I try to convince my husband he should rough-house more with him, but hubby is an intellectual type so I get tumble and wrestle duty.

I think you're right on to say we have to help these kids channel that energy because that's just the way they're made. We can't expect them to be someone they're not, but I'm worried that when he starts 1st grade this year he will not be able to sit for his lessons.

He's smart and loves learning, but he is NOT made for sitting behind a desk for longer than 15 minutes at a time. He has great levels of concentration and will stick to one task for hours, he wants to see things completed but not while sitting. ever!

I wish schools would let a kid stand during class. As long as they get the work done and can concentrate... I'm worried forced sitting will make him frustrated and turn him off from school.

Cloud said...

I think I'm working with a former fidgety baby. Seriously. The man has more energy than should be legal. He doesn't seem to need to sleep. He can't sit still.

The upside is that he has gotten an amazing amount done with his life. He is one of those scientists whose work will truly make an impact on human kind.

The downside is that he has a fearsome reputation for expecting the same sort of energy from everyone he works with. In practice (so far) it hasn't been that bad. Maybe he has mellowed.

Anyway- a plea to you parents of high energy kids: teach them that not everyone is that high energy! Try to teach them to be patient with the rest of us, who need to sleep. (:

Blue said...

Parent of a fidgety baby here. DD was colicky (though, from stories I hear now, not as bad as some). I breastfed her exclusively for six months, and she never nursed for more than 4 minutes per breast unless I picked her up for dream feedings. Wiggly, antsy, kicking, pushing, you name it. This continued through toddlerhood with nightly visits from the tall, lanky Kicking Fairy who could somehow wedge her feet into my ribs and DH's back simultaneously.

I do not think my DD is "spirited", though she does have a very argumentative, independent personality. Now that she is six years old, we are seeing the fidget slow down markedly. It seems with all this movements comes creativity and a mind that won't quit. She likes to snuggle up with a book and read for, like, 45 minutes at a stretch! On the other hand, if she get in my lap to cuddle, it's about 30 seconds before something doesn't feel comfy and I start getting elbows to the ribs. I think if she were truly spirited and uber-physical, she would need a lot more outlets. For now, ballet and school are enough to tire her out, thank goodness!

Todd said...

My daughter is about as fidgety as I have ever seen. She just turned 8 months and is constantly in motion. If you try to get her to be still for a few seconds to perform some tasks she gets angry. I expected infants to be in motion, but she is really active. She was also like this in the womb so much so that seasoned nurses had a hard time getting a heart rate monitor on her for a reading. We always heard "wow, she really moves around a lot doesn't she?" I was a very active baby as well from what I have been told, but it has still been a blast to watch her grow so far.

Anonymous said...

SO glad that I came across this. I have 16 month old who is driving me nuts with jumping and walking and running and dancing etc. He is NON stop until bed time. I have a brother who is high functioning autistic which I really know little about. Many of my sons activities remind me of my brother and I've just been very nervous. Either way that's my baby boy, I'm blessed but it was nice to read this, I need to stop LOOKING for annoying little things and just love my kid lol.

Theresa Chausse said...

I'm glad I came across this post...and I'm not alone. My LO has been fidgety since day one! soon as she was put on my chest right after birth she had her head up and looking around. not long after followed by flailing arms and legs.. my daughters are 18years apart, and my first was NOT fidgety at all.. but my youngest... super fidgety .. she is only 8 weeks now but she cannot just sit still. she is constantly moving her legs and arms. I was beginning to think I did something wrong during pregnancy. Thinking was it the cold medicine I took? did I drink too much coffee? Should I have taken the gross tasting prenatal vitamins instead of the gummy ones (sugary)? .. but from reading the posts, some are just "high energy" which makes sense since her dad cannot sit still for more than a few minutes, nor her brother.. but the other girls are perfectly calm. (my SO has three other kids)

not only is my DD fidgety but she is NOISY when she sleeps. She can sleep for a good 4/5 hours at a time but I can't. She is so noisy .. so no one gets any sleep ... she's constantly moving and making noise. Her pacifier calms her movements some but she wont keep it in her mouth on her own. I've tried 4 different ones, and the only one she lets in her mouth she doesn't hold in very well. So I have to sit there and hold it in her mouth to get her to stop fidgeting and fall asleep. anyhow, all of your posts have given me some hope.

hopefully she will be a little more physically advance... I can deal with that :)

Becca said...

My 5 month old baby fidgets. Not that it stops her going to sleep, in fact she starts (I say kicking off) but crying out, throwing herself about etc when shes tired because she wants to be put down to sleep rather than falling asleep on me and having a cuddle. But she does fidget constantly, when having a bottle will repeatedly slap my arm or kick her leg or push at my knee with her foot. So strange but glad other people have the same issues !

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